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Shuswap Water Quality Reports and Information

Here are some helpful resources about water quality in the Shuswap, developed by the Shuswap Watershed Council.

NEW! Nutrient research by UBC – Okanagan


Nutrients have long been of interest in the Shuswap because of their importance to lake health and productivity, and their ability to trigger an algal bloom. Phosphorus (P), in particular, is a key nutrient in aquatic ecosystems because plants and animals such as algae, invertebrates and fish need P to grow and reproduce. Therefore, it’s essential for supporting a healthy ecosystem – but, excessive amounts of nutrients and algae growth can reduce water clarity, create odours, and reduce the quality of water for drinking and recreation.

Water quality monitoring in the Shuswap has indicated that generally, water quality is good in most locations at most times of year. It has also shown us that the largest loads of nutrients to the lakes are coming from the Shuswap and Salmon Rivers. The Shuswap Watershed Council wanted to understand this better, and gain answers to the following questions:

  • Are there excess nutrients in the rivers that are not from the natural environment?
  • If so, where are they coming from and how are they getting into the rivers?

The SWC is working with researchers at UBC-Okanagan to try and answer these questions. Over the course of three field seasons, the research team collected and analyzed water samples from 20 different sites on the two rivers, and from over 80 additional sites at ditches, seasonal streams, and wells.

The research results are summarized in a new mini-report: Understanding Nutrients and Water Quality in the Shuswap River and Salmon River.

Additionally, a portion of the research results are presented in one of the researcher’s Masters Thesis, A multi-method approach for determining a phosphorous budget for the Shuswap and Salmon Rivers in Southern Interior British Columbia, authored by Megan Ludwig, available on the UBC website.

A full research report is forthcoming from the research team at UBC-Okanagan.

Annual water quality summary reports

The SWC has completed its third annual report on water quality in the Shuswap watershed: see Water Quality Summary Report for 2018.

2018 Water Quality Report

The summary report for 2017 can be found here.
The summary report for 2016 can be found here.

Water quality reports for the Shuswap watershed were also developed in 2012 and 2013 by the Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process. Find the SLIPP reports.

User Guide for retrieving water quality data

Much of the water quality data that is collected in the Shuswap watershed – and all across the province – is kept in a provincial government database. The database is called the “Environmental Monitoring System” or EMS. You can access water quality data from it using a web reporting tool.

We know that using a database can be overwhelming and frustrating. We’ve produced a step-by-step user guide to help get you started.

To accompany the user guide, you can also check out these Environmental Monitoring System maps that display the names of monitoring stations across the watershed.

Check out the Water Quality Data User Guide.

Monitoring water for contaminants of emerging concern

In 2017 the SWC initiated a water quality monitoring project in Shuswap Lake to test for the presence of substances called nonylphenols. Nonylphenols are a group of synthetic (man-made) compounds found in many industry and consumer products such as detergents, shampoos, cosmetics, lubricants, plastics, rubbers, paints and more. Nonylphenols can be toxic and persistent in the environment, and harmful to algae, invertebrates and fish. They are not routinely monitored in fresh water by environmental regulators.

Because of the occurrence of nonylphenols in such a variety of household consumer products, it’s quite possible that household wastewater contains small amounts of the substances. That possibility, combined with the awareness of nonylphenols’ potential harmfulness to lakes and rivers (but no current understanding about them in the Shuswap) is what led the SWC to initiate this special monitoring project.

The results are good!

The results of the monitoring project, which ran from spring to fall 2017, were very good. The monitoring involved taking samples at various locations in Shuswap Lake (Salmon Arm Bay), and from the Salmon Arm Wastewater Treatment Plant. Nonylphenols were not detected in any samples taken from the lake; a trace amount of one kind of nonylphenol was detected in the treatment plant effluent samples.

These monitoring results suggest that nonylphenols are entering the lake via treatment plant effluent, but in such minuscule amounts that sophisticated water quality analysis can’t detect or measure their presence in the lake. The Canadian Water Quality Guideline for the Protection of Aquatic Life sets the guideline for nonylphenols in fresh water at 1 microgram per litre, and Shuswap Lake is well within that limit.

The Shuswap Watershed Council thanks the City of Salmon Arm and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for their support and participation in this monitoring project.

For more information, see the SWC’s media release Shuswap Watershed Council’s monitoring project shows good results.



Our Vision

Social well-being supported by a vibrant economy and sustained by a healthy environment.

About the Fraser Basin Council

The Fraser Basin Council (FBC) is a charitable non-profit organization that brings people together to advance sustainability in the Fraser River Basin and throughout BC. Established in 1997, FBC is a collaboration of four orders of government (federal, provincial, local and First Nations) along with those from the private sector and civil society. We work with people in multiple sectors, helping them find collaborative solutions to today’s issues through a commitment to the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Our focus is on healthy water and watersheds, action on climate change and air quality and strong, resilient communities and regions.

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Contact Us

FBC has offices in Vancouver, Kamloops, Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George. We also have staff located in Abbotsford and Vernon.

To reach us, see FBC Offices and FBC Staff.

Our main office is:

Fraser Basin Council
1st Floor, 470 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 1V5

T: 604 488-5350
F: 604 488-5351